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Can ICTs be used to protect forestry resources?

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In this article, you will 

Learn about the possibility of using ICTs to combat illegal logging

Review some Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) that have been used elsewhere

Appreciate some few cases from LAOs, Cameroon and Greece where ICTs have been used to combat illegal logging.


In the beginning of the year, l wrote a piece focusing on ICTs and Forestry management in general. Additionally, for more information on how ICTs can be used to improve forestry governance, see Module 14 of the ICT in Agriculture e-Sourcebook. However, in this present piece l would like to focus on the use of information and communications technologies (ICTs) in the protection of forestry resources from improper exploitation.

Most people in developing countries depend on forestry resources for food and wood fuel, and yet illegal logging/felling and uncontrolled logging threatens the livelihoods of  many. Can ICTs be used to protect these resources? What examples have been implemented elsewhere?

The role of ICTs in protecting forestry resources

While ICTs have brought about the increasing use of mobile devices; increasing speed and lower cost of mobile data; data collection, visualization, and satellite imagery which have undoubtedly improved the management of forestry resources and wildlife. In the latter, the use of RFID technology for wildlife has been a success, see the Save the Rhino example in South Africa and Google Glass on Rhinos

With regards to forestry resources, the ICT intervention has been to (i) use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or drones); (ii) spatial monitoring tools that can be used by ranger patrols, and (iii) wildlife tracking tags.

In most cases these technologies are applied by rangers or forestry security protection services. For a general discussion on how the forestry law enforcement agents apply ICTs read the report of how ICTs have been used the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (LAO) and in Moldova. Below l summarize two examples where ICTs are used to fight illegal logging.

Selected cases studies in using ICTs to fight illegal logging

LAOs – Using Ona for Forest and Wildlife Law Enforcement in Laos

An ICT solution called Smart Phone Information Reporting and Intelligence Tracking (SPIRIT) was created as a national platform to analyze forests and track forests and wildlife crimes. This platform aggregates data from Ona – an online cases management system.

You can review the Smart Phone Information Reporting and Intelligence Tracking system by following this video

Video:SUFORD SU

More information about this here 

Cameroon’s front-line forest guardians use technology to fight back

In Cameroon, it is reported that the Faro – a brown wood is found in the forests of Ngwei and while valued by locals it under threat from illegal loggers.

The villagers formed an association SUHE, and was formed to protect their forests which are decimated daily. The villagers engage in patrols and have “equipped themselves with Global Positioning System trackers, digital cameras and smartphones to trach down illegal loggers”

One of the villagers was quoted as saying “Once we receive the information, we go out in the field to check it. We register GPS coordinates and take pictures so that verification teams can locate the infraction easily,” explains Nlend Nlend, who as well as SUHE’s secretary-general is an observer himself (Source: Place blog)

Read more about this case here 

Greece: Smart Solutions to fight illegal logging

The case of AITOLOS project between Greece and the Republic of Macedonia against illegal logging. The documented paper shows that various technologies were used in the pilot. These were identified in order to support traditional forest management and to help protect forest resources against illegal logging.

The following technologies were used:-

  • Smart tags for timber marking
  • Low costs, low power sensor networks for motion and volume detection
  • Truck motion detection
  • Satellite imaging

For the full discussion of these technologies here

Read a full paper on the case study here

Do you have a case study in the use of ICTs to fight illegal logging? Comment on this article

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